Friday, June 04, 2010

Book Review: The Last Word

John Stott has enjoyed a lengthy public ministry, proclaiming God's word both in the UK and further afield. Back in 2008, a new book was released with his portrait on the front, entitled The Last Word. Stott's last book, subtitled 'Reflections on a lifetime of preaching' was bought at the time, but disappeared so it's only now that I've had a chance to read it.

The Last Word refers to Stott's final ever address at the Keswick Convention, on Christlikeness. Answering the question he has devoted his life to, What is God's purpose for his people, Stott insists that 'Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God.' He then expands on this theme, showing its biblical basis, its extent following Christ's example, and its practical consequences.

The sermon is good with excellent content, but I found it to be very brief - it would have been good to see it expanded somewhat, in the classic Stott style, but this may well be because of the way it has been presented in the book. Rather than a continuous style with perhaps Italicised headings, it has been formally divided into separate chapters with blank pages and a title page for each section. So it would be even shorter than the 30 tiny pages it takes up. Plus, at one point, a new chapter heading has been introduced for the final sub-point of the previous section, leading to a more confusing structure which doesn't aid the reader.

The book is padded out with various other elements, including an interview with John Stott on the founding of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC), a great sermon on Romans 5, and then brief information sections on LICC, the Langham Partnership, and Keswick. Remarkably, I found the additional material to be the better and more useful parts - the Romans 5 talk was really good (and is part of another recent book 'John Stott at Keswick') and you got more of Stott's passion, personality and intentions coming through in the interview.

On one level, this book was almost a disappointment. Billed as Stott's last word, we have seen another book from him since (The Radical Disciple), and the sermon from Keswick was good but brief. Yet this slim volume will be a useful addition to the Christian's library, and may prove its most useful as a basis for further Bible study on the theme of becoming more like Jesus. A more mixed review than I normally produce, but I ended up slightly ambivalent about this book, so it is an accurate reflection on my reaction to it.

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